Homily and Other Words of the Holy Father at Lourdes, 2004
Pope John Paul II
HOMILY OF THE HOLY FATHER JOHN PAUL II
Prairie de la Ribère
Sunday, 15 August 2004
1. "Que soy era Immaculada Councepciou". The words which Mary spoke to Bernadette on 25 March 1858 have a particular resonance this year, as the Church celebrates the 150th anniversary of the solemn definition of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception by Blessed Pius IX in the Apostolic Constitution Ineffabilis Deus.
I have greatly wished to make this pilgrimage to Lourdes in order to celebrate an event which continues to give glory to the Triune God. Mary’s Immaculate Conception is the sign of the gracious love of the Father, the perfect expression of the redemption accomplished by the Son and the beginning of a life completely open to the working of the Spirit.
2. Beneath the maternal gaze of the Blessed Virgin I offer a heartfelt greeting to all of you, dear brothers and sisters, as we gather before the Grotto of Massabielle to sing the praises of her whom all generations call blessed (cf. Lk 1:48).
In particular I greet the French pilgrims and their Bishops, especially the President of the Episcopal Conference [name?] and Monsignor Jacques Perrier, the Bishop of Tarbes and Lourdes, whom I thank for his kind words at the start of this celebration.
I also greet the Minister of the Interior, who represents the French Government at today’s celebration, and the other civil and military authorities present.
My thoughts and prayers go also to the pilgrims assembled here from different parts of Europe and from throughout the world, and to all those spiritually united with us by radio and television. With special affection I greet the sick and all who have come to this holy place to seek consolation and hope. May the Blessed Virgin enable you to sense her presence and give comfort to your hearts!
3. "In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country..." (Lk 1:39). The words of the Gospel story have once more brought before the eyes of our hearts the young maiden of Nazareth as she makes her way to that "city of Judah" where her kinswoman Elizabeth lived, in order to be of help to her.
What strikes us about Mary is above all her loving concern for her elderly relative. Hers is a practical love, one which is not limited to words of understanding but is deeply and personally involved in giving help. The Blessed Virgin does not merely give her cousin something of herself; she gives her whole self, asking nothing in return. Mary understood perfectly that the gift she received from God is more than a privilege; it is a duty which obliges her to serve others with the selflessness proper to love.
4. "My soul magnifies the Lord..." (Lk 1:46). Mary’s sentiments in her meeting with Elizabeth are forcefully expressed in the canticle of the Magnificat. Her words convey the hope-filled expectation of the "poor of the Lord" and at the same time an awareness that God has fulfilled his promises, for he "has remembered his mercy" (cf. Lk 1:54).
This same awareness is the source of that joy of the Virgin Mary which pervades the whole canticle: joy in knowing that she has been "looked upon" by God despite her own "lowliness" (cf. Lk 1:48); joy in the "service" she is able to offer because of the "great things" to which the Almighty has called her (cf. Lk 1:49); joy in her foretaste of the eschatological blessedness promised to "those of low degree" and "the hungry" (cf. Lk 1:52-53).
The Magnificat is followed by silence: nothing is said to us about the three months that Mary stayed with her kinswoman Elizabeth. Yet perhaps we are told the most important thing: that goodness works quietly, the power of love is expressed in the unassuming quietness of daily service.
5. By her words and her silence the Virgin Mary stands before us as a model for our pilgrim way. It is not an easy way: as a result of the fall of our first parents, humanity is marked by the wounds of sin, whose consequences continue to be felt also among the redeemed. But evil and death will not have the last word! Mary confirms this by her whole life, for she is a living witness of the victory of Christ, our Passover.
The faithful have understood this. That is why they throng to this grotto in order to hear the maternal counsels of the Blessed Virgin. In her they acknowledge "the woman clothed in the sun" (Rev 12:1), the Queen resplendent before the throne of God (cf. Responsorial Psalm), ever interceding on their behalf.
6. Today the Church celebrates Mary’s glorious Assumption body and soul into Heaven. The two dogmas of the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption are closely related. Both proclaim the glory of Christ the Redeemer and the holiness of Mary, whose human destiny is even now perfectly and definitively realized in God.
"When I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am, there you may be also" (Jn 14: 3). Mary is the pledge of the fulfilment of Christ’s promise. Her Assumption thus becomes for us "a sign of sure hope and consolation" (cf. Lumen Gentium, 68).
7. Dear brothers and sisters! From this grotto of Massabielle the Blessed Virgin speaks to us too, the Christians of the third millennium. Let us listen to her!
Listen to her, young people who seek an answer capable of giving meaning to your lives. Here you can find that answer. It is a demanding one, yet it is the only answer which is genuinely satisfying. For it contains the secret of true joy and peace.
From this grotto I issue a special call to women. Appearing here, Mary entrusted her message to a young girl, as if to emphasize the special mission of women in our own time, tempted as it is by materialism and secularism: to be in today’s society a witness of those essential values which are seen only with the eyes of the heart. To you, women, falls the task of being sentinels of the Invisible! I appeal urgently to all of you, dear brother and sisters, to do everything in your power to ensure that life, each and every life, will be respected from conception to its natural end. Life is a sacred gift, and no one can presume to be its master.
Finally, Our Lady of Lourdes has a message for everyone. Be men and women of freedom! But remember: human freedom is a freedom wounded by sin. It is a freedom which itself needs to be set free. Christ is its liberator; he is the one who "for freedom has set us free" (cf. Gal 5:1). Defend that freedom!
Dear friends, in this we know we can count on Mary, who, since she never yielded to sin, is the only creature who is perfectly free. I entrust you to her. Walk beside Mary as you journey towards the complete fulfilment of your humanity!
INTRODUCTION OF THE HOLY FATHER JOHN PAUL II
TO THE RECITATION OF THE ROSARY
Grotto of Massabielle, 14 August 2004
My dear Brothers and Sisters!
1. Kneeling here, before the grotto of Massabielle, I feel deeply that I have reached the goal of my pilgrimage. This cave, where Mary appeared, is the heart of Lourdes. It reminds us of the cave of Mount Horeb where Elijah met the Lord, who spoke to him in "a still small voice" (1 Kg 19:12).
Here the Blessed Virgin asked Bernadette to recite the Rosary, as she herself told the beads. This grotto has thus become a unique school of prayer where Mary teaches everyone to gaze with burning love upon the face of Christ.
Lourdes is the place, then, where the Christians of France, and those from so many other nations of Europe and the world, fall to their knees and pray.
2. As pilgrims to Lourdes, we too wish this evening to retrace in prayer, together with Mary our Mother, the "mysteries" in which Jesus reveals that he is the "light of the world". We recall his promise: "He who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life" (Jn 8:12).
We wish to learn from the lowly handmaid of the Lord an attitude of docility and openness to the word of God and a generous commitment to welcoming Christ’s teaching into our lives.
In particular, as we meditate on the sharing of the Lord’s Mother in her Son’s redemptive mission, I would ask you to to pray for vocations to the priesthood and to virginity for the Kingdom of God, so that all those who are called will respond with generosity and perseverance.
3. As we turn to Mary Most Holy, let us pray together with Bernadette: "Good Mother, have mercy on me; I give myself entirely to you, that you may give me to your dear Son, whom I wish to love with my whole heart. Good Mother, grant me a heart all aflame for Jesus".
PRAYER OF THE HOLY FATHER
AT THE CONCLUSION OF THE ROSARY
(Esplanade of the Basilica of the Rosary, 14 August 2004)
Hail Mary, poor and humble Woman,
Blessed by the Most High!
Virgin of hope, dawn of a new era,
We join in your song of praise,
to celebrate the Lord’s mercy,
to proclaim the coming of the Kingdom
and the full liberation of humanity.
Hail Mary, lowly handmaid of the Lord,
Glorious Mother of Christ!
Faithful Virgin, holy dwelling-place of the Word,
Teach us to persevere in listening to the Word,
and to be docile to the voice of the Spirit,
attentive to his promptings in the depths of our conscience
and to his manifestations in the events of history.
Hail Mary, Woman of sorrows,
Mother of the living!
Virgin spouse beneath the Cross, the new Eve,
Be our guide along the paths of the world.
Teach us to experience and to spread the love of Christ,
to stand with you before the innumerable crosses
on which your Son is still crucified.
Hail Mary, woman of faith,
First of the disciples!
Virgin Mother of the Church, help us always
to account for the hope that is in us,
with trust in human goodness and the Father’s love.
Teach us to build up the world beginning from within:
in the depths of silence and prayer,
in the joy of fraternal love,
in the unique fruitfulness of the Cross.
Holy Mary, Mother of believers,
Our Lady of Lourdes,
pray for us.
INTRODUCTION OF THE HOLY FATHER JOHN PAUL II
TO THE TORCHLIGHT PROCESSION
Accueil Notre-Dame, 14 August 2004
Dear Brothers and Sisters!
1. When the Virgin Mary appeared to Bernadette in the grotto at Massabielle, she began a dialogue between Heaven and earth which has lasted through time and continues to this day. Speaking to the young girl, Mary asked that people should come here in procession, as if to signify that this dialogue cannot be limited to words, but must become a journey at her side along the pilgrim way of faith, hope and love.
Here in Lourdes, for more than a century the Christian people have faithfully responded to that maternal summons, walking each day behind Christ in the Blessed Sacrament and processing each night amid songs and prayers in honour of the Lord’s Mother.
This year the Pope joins you in this act of devotion and love for the Most Holy Virgin, the glorious woman of the Book of Revelation, crowned with twelve stars (cf. Rev 12,1). Holding in our hands the lighted torch, we recall and profess our faith in the Risen Christ. From Him the whole of our life receives light and hope.
2. To you, dear brothers and sisters, I entrust a particular intention for our prayer this evening: join me in imploring the Virgin Mary to obtain for our world the longed-for gift of peace.
May forgiveness and brotherly love take root in human hearts. May every weapon be laid down, and all hatred and violence put aside.
May everyone see in his neighbour not an enemy to be fought, but a brother to be accepted and loved, so that we may join in building a better world.
3. Together let us invoke the Queen of Peace and renew our commitment to the service of reconciliation, dialogue and solidarity. In this way we shall merit the happiness which the Lord has promised to the peacemakers (Mt 5,9).
I accompany you with my prayer and my blessing.
Prairie de la Ribère, Sunday 15 August 2004
1. At the conclusion of this solemn Liturgy, I wish to offer a special greeting to those taking part in the French National Pilgrimage led by the "Famille de l’Assomption".
I greet in particular all the young people, who are so much at home in Lourdes and have placed themselves so generously at the service of their sick brothers and sisters as hospitaliers. I recall with fondness my meetings with young people in France: our first meeting in Paris, then those in Lyons, Strasbourg and once again in Paris for World Youth Day. Dear young friends: these meetings have given me a great hope which I wish to share with you today. Let Mary be your teacher, and you will bring a fresh breath of optimism to the world, as you proclaim to all the "good news" of Christ’s Kingdom.
2. From the rock of Massabielle, the Blessed Virgin appeared to Bernadette. Revealing herself as the one who is full of God’s grace, she called for penance and prayer. She indicated to Bernadette a spring of water and asked her to drink of it. That spring of fresh water has become one of the symbols of Lourdes: a symbol of the new life which Christ gives to all who turn to him.
Christianity is truly a fountain of life, and Mary is the first guardian of this fountain. She points it out to all people, inviting them to renounce their pride and to learn humility, so that they can draw from the mercy of her Son and thus work together for the dawn of the civilization of love.
3. As we meditate on the mystery of the incarnation of Jesus, let us now turn to Mary Most Holy, imploring her protection upon each of us, upon the Church and upon the world.
After the Angelus:
Dear brothers and sisters, may the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary remind you that heaven is our true home and the goal of our life’s journey. Upon you and your families I invoke God’s abundant blessings.
Weekly Edition in English
25 August 2004, pages 6-8
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